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Dora Maar au Chat

Dora Maar au Chat

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Dora Maar au Chat is a 1941 painting by Pablo Picasso
Pablo Picasso
Pablo Diego José Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno María de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santísima Trinidad Ruiz y Picasso known as Pablo Ruiz Picasso was a Spanish expatriate painter, sculptor, printmaker, ceramicist, and stage designer, one of the greatest and most influential artists of the...

. It depicts Dora Maar
Dora Maar
Dora Maar was a French photographer, poet and painter, best known for being a lover and muse of Pablo Picasso.-Life:...

, the painter's lover, seated on a chair with a small cat perched on her shoulders. This work is one of the world's most expensive paintings.


The canvas (50 ½ by 37 ½ inches / 128.3 cm by 95.3 cm) was one of many portraits of Dora Maar painted by Pablo Picasso over their nearly decade-long relationship. Picasso fell in love with the 29-year old Maar at the age of 55 and soon began living with her. This painting was done during the year 1941, when the Nazis were occupying France. In the 1940s, the painting was obtained by Chicago collectors Leigh and Mary Block
Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art
The Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art is an art museum located on the campus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. The Block Museum was established in 1980 by Chicago art collectors Mary and Leigh B. Block...

. They sold the painting in 1963 After that, the painting was never shown until the 21st century.

During 2005 and 2006, Dora Maar au Chat, then owned by the Gidwitz family
Gerald Gidwitz
Gerald S. Gidwitz was a co-founder of Helene Curtis Industries.-Early life:Gidwitz was born in Memphis, Tennessee. His father was a cotton farmer and general store owner in Mississippi...

 of Chicago, was shown worldwide as part of Sotheby's
Sotheby's is the world's fourth oldest auction house in continuous operation.-History:The oldest auction house in operation is the Stockholms Auktionsverk founded in 1674, the second oldest is Göteborgs Auktionsverk founded in 1681 and third oldest being founded in 1731, all Swedish...

 exhibitions in London, Hong Kong and New York. It came up for sale in an auction
An auction is a process of buying and selling goods or services by offering them up for bid, taking bids, and then selling the item to the highest bidder...

 of Impressionist/Modern works held at Sotheby's on May 3, 2006 in New York and making it the second-highest price ever paid for a painting at auction. An anonymous Russian http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19263980/site/newsweek/ bidder present at the New York auction won the work with a final bid of US$95,216,000, well exceeding the pre-auction US$50 million estimates.

The identity of the bidder, who spent more than US$100 million in total, and purchased an 1883 Monet
Claude Monet
Claude Monet was a founder of French impressionist painting, and the most consistent and prolific practitioner of the movement's philosophy of expressing one's perceptions before nature, especially as applied to plein-air landscape painting. . Retrieved 6 January 2007...

 seascape and a 1978 Chagall
Marc Chagall
Marc Chagall Art critic Robert Hughes referred to Chagall as "the quintessential Jewish artist of the twentieth century."According to art historian Michael J...

 in addition to the Picasso, was a topic of much speculation. Apparently a novice bidder, though possibly acting as an agent for a more well-known collector, the anonymous buyer may have been unknown at the start of the auction even to Sotheby's officials. As of mid-2007, the ownership of the Dora Maar au Chat is still unknown to the general public, although rumors have focused on the Georgian mining magnate Bidzina (Boris) Ivanishvili
Boris Ivanishvili
Boris Ivanishvili is a Georgian oligarch with a net worth reported to be 5.5 billion dollars.- Biographical details :...

, who sold his Moscow bank a week before the auction for $550 m. He resides at a large house built into a rock bluff in his native Republic of Georgia.http://www.inopressa.ru/independent/2006/05/29/16:30:07/oligarhi

Descriptions of painting

Dora Maar au Chat presents the artist's most mysterious and challenging mistress regally posed three-quarter length in a large wooden chair with a small black cat perched behind her in both an amusing and menacing attitude. The faceted planes of her body and richly layered surface of brushstrokes impart a monumental and sculptural quality to this portrait. The painting is also remarkable for its brilliance of colour and the complex and dense patterning of the model's dress. The powerful figure is set in a dramatic, yet simple setting composed of a vertiginously inclined plane of wooden floorboards and shallow interior space that is arranged in a manner reminiscent of Picasso’s earliest manipulations of space in a cubist manner.

Dora Maar au Chat is one of Picasso’s most valued depictions of his lover and artistic companion. Their partnership had been one of intellectual exchange and intense passion—Dora was an artist, spoke Picasso’s native Spanish, and shared his political concerns. She even assisted with the execution of the monumental Guernica
Guernica (painting)
Guernica is a painting by Pablo Picasso. It was created in response to the bombing of Guernica, Basque Country, by German and Italian warplanes at the behest of the Spanish Nationalist forces, on 26 April 1937, during the Spanish Civil War...

and produced the only photo-documentary of the work in progress. She was an intellectual force – a characteristic that both stimulated and challenged Picasso and her influence on him resulted in some of his most powerful and daring portraits of his 75-year career. Among the best of them are the oils
Oil painting
Oil painting is the process of painting with pigments that are bound with a medium of drying oil—especially in early modern Europe, linseed oil. Often an oil such as linseed was boiled with a resin such as pine resin or even frankincense; these were called 'varnishes' and were prized for their body...

 completed during the late 1930s and early 1940s, when Picasso’s art resonated with the drama and emotional upheaval of the era and which Dora came to personify. The luminous Dora Maar au Chat was painted in 1941, at the beginning of the Second World War in France .

Maar was one of the most influential figures in Picasso’s life during their relationship and she also became his primary model. By the time he painted the present picture he had incorporated Dora Maar’s image into countless versions of this motif. During the occupation of Paris by the Nazis, and as tension mounted in their relationship, the artist would express his frustration by furiously abstracting her image, often portraying her in tears. While the present portrait might seem a departure from Picasso's more hostile depictions of this model, it may be one of his most brilliant and biting provocations of his Weeping Woman. Picasso once likened Maar’s allure and temperament to that of an “Afghan cat”, and the cat in this picture is laden with significance. In the history of art, the pairing of cats and women was an allusion to feminine wiles and sexual aggression, as exemplified in Manet
-MANET as an abbreviation:*MANET is a mobile ad hoc network, a self-configuring mobile wireless network.*MANET database or Molecular Ancestry Network, bioinformatics database-People with the surname Manet:*Édouard Manet, a 19th-century French painter....

’s notorious Olympia
Olympia (painting)
Olympia is an oil on canvas painting by Édouard Manet. Painted in 1863, it measures 130.5 by 190 centimetres . The nation of France acquired the painting in 1890 with a public subscription organized by Claude Monet...

. It is also interesting to consider that the artist has paid particular attention to the sharp, talon-like nails on the long fingers of his model. In life Maar’s well-manicure
A manicure is a cosmetic beauty treatment for the fingernails and hands performed at home or in a nail salon. A manicure treatment is not only a treatment for the natural nails but also for the hands. A manicure consists of filing, shaping of the free edge, treatments, massage of the hand and the...

d hands were one of her most beautiful and distinctive features, and here they have taken on another, more violent characteristic.

In addition to being a rare, three-quarter length portrait of Dora Maar, the present work is also a generous and painterly composition with an extraordinary attention to detail. The artist used an extraordinarily vibrant palette in his rendering of the angles of the chair and the patterning of Maar’s dress. The most embellished and symbolic element of the sitter’s wardrobe in this picture is her hat, Maar’s most famous accessory and signifier of her involvement in the Surrealist
Surrealism is a cultural movement that began in the early 1920s, and is best known for the visual artworks and writings of the group members....

movement. Ceremoniously placed atop her head like a crown, it is festooned with colourful plumes and outlined with a band of vibrant red. Larger than life, an impression enhanced by her vibrant body that cannot be confined by the boundaries of the chair, Maar looms in this picture like a pagan goddess seated on her throne.

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